Joe pointed out in the comments to a post below this review by David Killcullen of a piece by Edward Luttwak. It is a good read.
I will have some more posts on COIN in the near future.
Armed Liberal of Winds of Change submitted the following guest post to Grim's Hall.
Grim posts two scenarios:
1) I'm sitting in class, armed, and I hear shots and screams from the
2) I'm sitting in class and a shooter walks in the door and starts
On scenario 2) I'd create a 2a) and 2b); In 2a), I'm armed with a
firearm, in 2b) I'm not.
Background: I'm a trained tactical shooter, and have participated in
shooting sports for twenty-some years. I've been trained at Gunsite
(multiple times), Thunder Ranch (multiple times), Insights (once) and had random classes from and competed with many of the loveable and wacky folks in the tactical shooting world. I'd estimate my proficiency as high-average for a law-enforcement officer (on good days, I can shoot with the SWAT guys).
I've actually run some of these scenarios in training, including force-on force, as well as in competitions, so I'm kind of cheating here.
So let me talk about 2b) first, which is the one that has the most connection to reality.
If I'm in a room and someone starts shooting, my response will depend on two things - where am I relative to the door and to the shooter, and whether I took my hero pills that day.
First, I'm going to do something - I've been in enough situations to know that I'll react. The base reaction ought to be to get out of the door, leaving the shooter in the room. I have an ambush position on him when he comes out, and since I always have a pocketknife or even a rollerball pen, at that range (ambushing him as he walks out a door), it's going to be advantage me.
If I can't do that - if I'm too far from the door, or he's between me and the door, I'm going to start throwing things. My laptop is perfect, books, pens, my cell phone, anything I can chuck at him while running toward him and yelling to encourage others to do the same thing. Part of what I want to do is change the group dynamics, and tip the 'flight, freeze, or fight' into 'fight'. Plus it takes time for him to break his pattern of action, and if I can get to him while he's busy aiming and shooting at someone else, the odds are he won't have time to refocus on me.
I want to close with him because if I can get within three or four feet of him, he'll have a hard time shooting me (again, I'm cheating - enough martial arts experience to know that I can knock most people down and have a pretty good shot at disarming them) plus if I can get him off his feet, I'm hoping others will come help sit on him.
Most people who get shot once by handguns don't die - unless the shooter has the luxury of enough time to deliver a coup de grace to the head. That's a small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless.
So we move to 2a), where he walks in but I'm armed. I draw my Glock 27, get out of the chair and kneel (if I'm shooting upward I worry less about hitting the people in back of him) and shoot him in the head. I've done pretty consistently this off a buzzer in about 2.5 - 3 seconds, so figure it's take me another three or five seconds to realize what's going on and react. So eight seconds after he walks in the door, he's dead. Assume I miss the first shot, and the second is .8 seconds behind it. Nine seconds for two shots. That's the best plausible case - probably a factor of two or more better than reality would be (ducking to get an angle for a shot, etc.). But note that he took ninety seconds or more in each classroom, so that's a relatively short time for him to be active.
How do I know I could do this? Let me take a moment and talk about fighting like you train.
The closest I ever came to being shot involved an unfortunate incident in which I arrived to my office at 3am in response to an alarm company call, walked into the courtyard, and saw two shadowy figures, one with a gun, on my office stairs. I was too far into the courtyard to retreat, so I drew my gun and yelled "Freeze! Police!" (I was, of course calling for the police, not representing myself as a police officer) and the figure with the gun turned toward me. I started the 'shoot' cycle, and as I focused on his chest, stil remember seeing the glint of a badge and releasing the trigger. We had a brief John Woo moment, and I did what I'd trained to do a million times. I holstered my gun, slowly raised my hands and said "I'm a good guy."
You'll note the colossally stupid thing I did - I reholstered my gun while looking down the barrel of the officer's gun. I did that because that's what I'd always done in class and in training when we did 'blue-on-blue' exercises. I was completely frightened - I recall being sure I was going to get shot and thinking "They aren't even going to get in trouble for this..." but still followed the pattern I'd built to the letter.
It (obviously) ended well, and I felt better when they explained that they'd been on foot which explained why I didn't see a patrol car when I drove up (I'd looked for either a police car or an obvious perp car, and would have driven away and called the police in either case).
So I'm pretty confident that I'm going to do whatever it is that I'm trained to do when the lights go up. And that anyone else would be likely to do so as well.
In Scenario 1, the first response is to close the door and move to a position where I can cover the door opening and shoot him as he walks in. I'll take a position along the wall to the side of the door that opens (the doorknob side) and get everyone to move into the far corner on the same side of the door as me. We're pretty solidly defensible at that point.
In another sidenote, while at Thunder Ranch we did an exercise in which five of us 'hunted' five others (no guns) within one of the training structures. It was pretty chilling to note that those who stayed in place and ambushed won 5:1 over those who moved and searched. So solo building clearing isn't high on my list of things to do in reality, unless there's a compelling reason. Staying put and setting ambushes is much more effective if what you want to do is kill the bad guy and survive yourself.
But - for the right reasons, like if my kid was in my house - I'd probably be willing to overlook those odds and gamble in part on the fact that I'm more motivated and better trained than whoever I'm hunting.
The interesting question - and one I genuinely couldn't answer - is whether I'd be willing to walk out of the room and go hunt the shooter. That's one of those random synapse click things, I imagine. So I can't really say whether I think I'd risk it all to be a hero. I might. I tend to wade into things before I think about them much. And then I might not, remembering the lesson I learned at Thunder Ranch.
I'd certainly defend myself and those immediately around me (can't defend me without defending them). I might go after him and try and defend more people - but I really can't say for certain. I wish I could. But I also know for certain that I'd be doing everything in my power not to be a victim.
I know little about Jewish funeral traditions and rites, so I'm not certain precisely what the right thing to say is. Let me just say, then, that Liviu Librescu was a fine man, and one America did right to welcome. He repaid that welcome with service, laying down his life to save our young men and women. Let us repay his service with honor and friendship, and remember.
If anyone wishes to add or extend comments on anything relating to the wargame exercise, I will be closing the thing at the end of today and writing up the findings.
Special Forces blogger Francis Marion posted his thoughts here, if you haven't seen them.
By now, everyone knows that Harry Reid declared today that the Iraq war "is lost." The Surge, he says, is not working, as evidenced by the massive car bombings of this week.
Tigerhawk asks what possible purpose is served by such a statement. I will answer that Reid probably believes it to be true, and that speaking the truth is a good in and of itself. It happens that he is wrong, but I don't doubt that he believes he is doing something good.
The Surge is actually not yet in place -- only sixty percent of its forces are deployed -- and generals have warned that car bombings will be the last thing they can address, due to the location of car bomb factories in the suburbs outside Baghdad. The battle for these Baghdad belts is the last part of the Surge plan.
It is fair, then, to say that Harry Reid is premature in declaring the Surge a failure based on this evidence. (To say nothing of the war as a whole -- particularly in Anbar province, there has been marked progress in bringing once-hostile tribes alongside of Coalition forces.) It is also clear that the US military has made every effort to ensure that Congress understands this plan, and would have reached out to Reid's office had he contacted them to ask for comment before declaring their efforts a failure.
Why Reid has not understood the plan is not clear. Almost any speculation on the question leads you to say something ungenerous about the Senate Majority Leader, so let's not engage in speculation. It's not my point here to bait other Americans into a fight, but rather to sort out what the correct view of the situation is.
Still, it is fair to say that -- by citing the evidence he chose at this point in the plan's execution -- he has demonstrated that he doesn't understand what the military is trying to accomplish.
I hope someone will gently point that out to him, in terms he can take to heart. It ought to be alarming to him. Hopefully, he will have the grace to apologize for this comment, and work more closely with the military in understanding the American mission in Iraq.
Another thing that ought to be alarming is realizing that he has not only failed to understand what our military is attempting, he has also not paused to wonder what the enemy hopes to accomplish.
Some might claim the March 24 attacks were timed so the news would coincide with that of the House vote on the Iraq Withdrawal Bill. Some might notice that this week's attacks coincide with the return of congress from Spring Break, with the Iraq Bill once again foremost on the agenda.The attacks are clearly timed to affect the US political landscape. The US military has made clear that car bombs will continue to be a factor until the Baghdad belts can be addressed, which will only be the case later during the Surge.
A clear-eyed political view would recognize those facts, and comment accordingly. One should consider the messages the enemy is trying to make you believe -- and also the messages you may be sending back.
UPDATE: By the way, does anyone know what argument Reid was trying to forward here?
I believe the war at this stage can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically.Those remarks followed the "war is lost" bit, and confuse the message terribly. Is Reid attempting to suggest that the war can be won "diplomatically, politically and economically" without a military/security component? If he is, he ought to make clear why he believes that is the case.
If he is merely arguing that those elements will be the decisive ones in bringing about a stable Iraq, he is in simple agreement with the various generals running the war. Given that he is arguing for troop withdrawals against the Surge, however, he appears not to be making that argument.
Would Reid please be clear exactly what he is trying to say? Is the war lost, or can it still be won? Are the troops counterproductive? If the war can be won, but only if we first withdraw our troops, what exactly is his diplomatic/political/economic plan for establishing security in the face of terrorists without Coalition security forces?
If he has such an argument to make, it would be well to make it now, so that we can consider it before Congress votes on funding the troops or not. I'd like to hear his thoughts laid out plainly and clearly.
Thanks to everyone for the many thoughtful contributions to the wargaming exercise, begun below. I'd like to summarize the first set of 'lessons learned.' This is only a summary of the broad areas of agreement: there is a tremendous amount of expertise available in the comments to the post below.
Scenario I has prompted two basic theoretical responses, one defensive and one offensive. The defensive response seems rather more popular: that, at minimum, an armed student with proper training and a defensive firearm could secure his own classroom, deny it to an aggressor, and (if an evacuation route were available, as they were at VA Tech) cover the escape of the unarmed. If that can be achieved, the armed citizen is then able to either leave as well, or engage in further operations at the risk of only his own life. He has to make a personal decision as to his capacity here -- for example, our former MP at Ft. Bragg, who notes that he is no longer sufficiently mobile to pursue less static operations, versus our Air Marshal, who is entirely (and doubtless justifiably) confident of his capability.
If there were one such armed civilian in any given classroom, it should be possible in most cases to deny the shooter victims beyond the first place he hits. If there is only one here and there, it would still sharply reduce the number of potential victims, and increase the danger to would-be assassins.
The offensive response notes that, the sooner the assassin is taken out, the fewer people will die. This mode suggests seeking out and destroying the assassin at once. This position is controversial among respondents:
a) Some note the lack of intelligence on the precise nature of the threat, which might not be a school shooter. It could be a legitimate police operation, or it could be a terrorist act.
b) Others mentioned the high level of risk to the armed citizen. 'Clearing a building is a team sport,' notes TheNewGuy, quite rightly. However, one also recognizes that personal survival may not be the point. Referencing Professor Liviu Librescu, we note that defending the weak is sometimes a matter for which we might properly undertake even great personal risk, or the certainty of personal destruction.
Nevertheless, a review of the severity and nature of the dangers ought to be sobering. Anyone undertaking this sort of measure would be wise to adopt 1charlie2's suggestion to inform the police of distinguishing features; the suggestion to expect police communications to be garbled, and thus to be prepared to surrender quickly should they overtake your position. Indeed, in any scenario 1 response, communicating your existence and intentions to the police is a priority, as is making sure they are aware of the situation in case you fail.
The general consensus is that this is a high risk strategy, with a relatively low survival probability. Some of the best trained and most experienced of respondents, however, suggest that it is the right course.
c) For those who feel competent to engage the enemy, there are two strongly supported pieces of advice. The first is from Air Marshal SamTheFAM:
Ten to one odds that guy was target fixated. Hell even after shooting tens of thousands of rounds in training I still chant "Scan and breath" to myself all the while shooting...scan and breath, scan and breath. Because the majority of folks forget to do both. He could have been taken out from behind by a few well placed center mass shots.The second is the advice to track on gunfire, and lay a counterambush on likely points of transit. Whenever possible, leave a covered line of retreat open for yourself.
d) Some respondents point to the danger of shooting other armed students, attempting the same sort of actions. This is a good point: friendly fire is a real danger in these cases.
Scenario II has produced a fairly unified structure. We all seem to agree that the basic structure is as suggested: evade, control, retaliate, or as many of you put it, move, draw, fire. First do what you can to gain a second or two out of the direct line of fire; then, get control of your weapon; then, direct fire to center mass.
Two sideline discussions have arisen.
The first is among those respondants who know they will never be carrying arms. What should you do?
My advice is twofold. Those of you who think you might be constitutionally capable of learning to bear arms, lawfully and with personal discipline, ought to do exactly that. We need more of your kind contributing to the defense of the common peace and lawful order.
There remain those of you who are not confident of being able to do such things. There is nothing wrong with this. You should take the lead of those who are, and follow their directions in getting to the best exit available. Withdraw from the scene as you are able, and stay gone. Contact the police. Not everyone is a fighter.
The second offshoot wondered if the scenarios were valid. If we came to the point that people were reliably carrying arms on campus, at least two respondents asked, why wouldn't wannabe assassins change their tactics and go somewhere else?
There are two basic responses to that.
1) This is not a bug, it's a feature. The point is to harden the campus so as to make it a less attractive target. If that adjusts the behavior of bad actors so that they stop shooting up schools, good.
2) However, to have that effect, we have to get to the point that this is a reliable danger they have to consider. In order to get there, we need to establish an understanding of how to respond to events of this type, and get people to the point that they are carrying.
We've talked about the importance of training in being ready to respond to violence. If you are going to do a citizen's duty to uphold the common peace and lawful order, you must prepare for that duty.
Sovay suggests a wargaming exercise, which strikes me as a good idea. She asks this of the readership:
If you were at Virginia Tech that day and had a gun a) Please tell me what you would have done. b) Tell me how certain you are that you would have done it. The more detail you can give, such as location and situation of those around you, the better.Tactics depend heavily on the actual situation and surroundings. The main shootings seem to have happened at Norris Hall, which you can see here. I gather this is the building to which the main exits were chained. It is two stories, and we know that the second story classrooms could be exited by the windows.
There is a map of the surrounding campus here. Police call boxes are not marked, but presumably -- if VTech is like any other campus I've been on -- there are some.
These photos are from inside Norris Hall. Internal walls appear to be solid cinderblock, easily capable of serving as hard cover against 9mm or .22 rounds. Presumably that would be the same for the classrooms. I can't think why they would have a different basic internal structure from the rest of the building, but if anyone knows better, shout out.
Let's consider two basic scenarios:
1) You are in class in Norris Hall, with a (lawfully carried, we'll presume for the purpose of this example -- let us say the law changes as a result of this episode) defensive handgun of your choice. You hear gunfire in the building. You may be either on the first or second floor, near or far from the stairwells, as you prefer.
2) You are in classs in Norris Hall, on the first floor near the main entrance. A student you know only barely walks into the room and opens fire.
Obviously the tactical situation in #2 is much worse, but consider it all the same.
I would say in scenario 1, the best option is to adopt a position that will allow you to use the cinderblock walls as cover, while controlling the entrance to the classroom. Once this is done, you can determine if any other fellow students are likewise lawfully armed, and what degree of training they may have had. If there is backup within the classroom, you have increased options; but if not, the best thing to do is to determine the best route of escape (probably through the windows) and see that noncombatants are evacuated safely, with instructions to contact the police at once.
At that point, depending on the sound of gunfire, you can either advance to set a counterambush on a likely point for the enemy to cross; or attempt to reconnoiter the enemy position in order to provide intelligence to the police. If it appeared to be a solitary killer, and you were able to approach his position without being spotted, you could kill him. If it appeared to be something more than that, you would be better informed to advise responding policemen.
An alternative prospect arises if you know that most students are in a given section of the building, which can be isolated. You might well set up a defensive posture there, to cover their escape.
Scenario 2 is rather more dangerous. In that case, the thing to do is to follow the advice taught me by Ken Caton: "Evade, control, retaliate." The first thing to do is to take any decent cover that presents itself. Then, prepare your weapon. Then, attempt to respond, either by killing the enemy, or by pinning him down so that he could not harm others before police arrived.
Sovay asks how certain I would be that I would do this, rather than panic or something else. Having been in life-threatening circumstances just occasionally, and having dealt with violent criminals twice, I feel almost certain that I would respond in this fashion. My reaction to serious danger has usually been what Doc Russia describes as "the Machine" -- the shutoff of emotional content, and a very cold and ruthless rationality. It doesn't always save the day, but it does allow for a direct response to danger.
I'll post a link to this at BlackFive and MilBlogs, to invite a further response. Anyone with military, police or other relevant experience is invited to respond. The idea is to build a notion of what the basic elements are in a successful response to an attack of this sort, so that we may be better prepared.
UPDATE: At the point of 38 responses here and 35 at BlackFive, I composed a summary post on the broad areas of agreement emerging. Scroll up past this post to read it.
One professor, a Holocaust survivor blocked the door opening in front of the shooter with his body while his students had the chance to escape out the window.H/t: Cassandra.Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, threw himself in front of the shooter, who had attempted to enter his classroom. The Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer was shot to death, "but all the students lived - because of him," Virginia Tech student Asael Arad - also an Israeli - told Army Radio.
Several of Librescu's other students sent e-mails to his wife, Marlena, telling of how he blocked the gunman's way and saved their lives, said the son, Joe.
"My father blocked the doorway with his body and asked the students to flee," Joe Librescu said in a telephone interview from his home outside of Tel Aviv.
A news item from Virginia's legislature, dated 31 January 2006.
A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly.And therefore there was no one to stop him.
House Bill 1572 didn't get through the House Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety. It died Monday in the subcommittee stage, the first of several hurdles bills must overcome before becoming laws.
Before his cousin came up with the New Deal, Teddy offered the square deal.
Lincoln Steffens, a reform-minded journalist who had met Roosevelt long before his presidency, inadvertently gave the agenda its name. Steffens interviewed TR often and knew that he fancied himself a reformer too. Peeved by the caution of TR’s first year in office, Steffens tried to embarrass him into action. “You don’t stand for anything fundamental,” Steffens told him one day at the White House. “All you represent is the square deal.”It's an interesting article from The Wilson Quarterly.
Roosevelt, plainly overjoyed, leapt out of his chair, pounded his desk, and bellowed, “That’s it. That’s my slogan: the square deal.”
TR tried to assure the bullies that the Square Deal was not socialism. He did not plan to confiscate the aces and give them to the poor, he said; he meant only to prevent crookedness in the dealing. He had no objection to men of great wealth, only to the “malefactors of great wealth,” as he would call them. He didn’t name names, but the press was soon slapping the label on J. Pierpont Morgan and every other tycoon who ran into trouble with the trust buster. TR also declared that he would not tolerate demagogues who incited the have-nots to violence against the haves. From his presidency through his run for a third term in 1912, he would denounce class envy in one breath and in the next opine that “of all the forms of tyranny the least attractive and most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth.”
On the subject of tyrants, though, I must say that I prefer Edward Abbey's argument: "No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets." It was that sort of tyranny that drove the American revolution: not torture and secret courts, but the stamp act.
Karrde, in an interesting post below, wonders about whether a hero is properly boastful or not. The confusion he expresses arises, I think, from the fact that the West contains two separate traditions on the subject -- the old Indo-European heroic tradition, and the Christian heroic tradition that has largely supplanted it.
Heroic boasting was a social institution that was used by Indo-European cultures to do more than advertise their past deeds. It was also a form of accruing additional glory: both for the poetic excellence of your description, and by allowing you to essentially make wagers with the future about what you would be able to do. But you must remember that many of the ones we have today are not recordings of actual boasts, but poetic interpretations of what the boasts of the greatest heroes of yore must have sounded like. (For a version of what the boasts of regular, living heroes sounded like, see the Saga of the Jomsvikings.)
The greatest version of the heroic boast for a living man was to inspire others to extoll his virtues instead of doing it himself. This was normally done through the heroic virtue of liberality. By giving great feasts and fine gifts, you would inspire others to speak very highly of you. Professional poets would sing your praises, and they were free to do so in terms that were even more boastful than you could use yourself.
The Beowulf poem stands at the end of a very long series of revisions, now lost to us (as Tolkien pointed out in "The Monsters and the Critics"). Swimming in chainmail (which really can be done, as the folks at Regia Anglorum have shown) while fighting off sea monsters, etc., this isn't the sort of boast the old warrior on whom Beowulf is based would have made. They are the sort of poetics that would have arisen about him among the professional skalds who benefitted at his court, and their children and grandchildren, who sang of him to entertain later kings with tales of their heroic progeny.
These stories -- some version of heroic stories are what Kim du Toit is wanting when he says that "we need heroes" -- serve a number of useful functions. They showcase what a hero looks like, and how one acts. They make people think of themselves as more than just individuals, but as part of a great people with a proud history that they should uphold. They reinforce common values, and inspire better behavior. They help to socialize the young, and they also serve to remind the old about what was great and good about their own lives.
The silent hero is a Christian form, and one that developed slowly. Christianity has a lot to say against boasting and pride, and after the West became formally Christian, the Church began a centuries-long task of trying to restrain the pride that was expressed by the aristocracies of all the European cultures.
In the early Anglo-Saxon church, we have the famous cleric Alcuin protesting, "What has Ingeld to do with Christ?" That lament arose in response to the fact that heroic poetry was being read among monks instead of the Bible or the writings of saints. Those monks often came from the same aristocratic classes that furnished the great kings and warriors, and they enjoyed the same poetry. Indeed, we have the Beowulf because the monks preserved it.
By the time of Sir Thomas Malory, however, the concept of pride as sinful had at least taken hold among the fighting class. Le Morte D'Arthur still has prideful, boastful warriors, but it also has the quest for the Grail with its repentence and silence; it has the conclusion wherein Lancelot abandons worldly pride for the life of a monk. There is a deep conflict between the heroic virtues, and the Christian ones.
In the Anglosphere, the increasing importance of the Protestant movement, I'd say, was the driving force in moving the balance point in that conflict. Boasting was something a good Catholic could still do, as long as he boasted of the right things and repented for other things. (As Chesterton wrote, "Any one might say, 'Neither swagger nor grovel'; and it would have been a limit. But to say, 'Here you can swagger and there you can grovel' -- that was an emancipation.") The good Protestant, especially a good Calvinist, should not swagger at all.
America especially has its cultural roots in Protestantism, and so we have a deeply embedded notion that it is wrong to boast. We like the hero (whether a soldier or a rider of bulls) who does great things, and then says it was nothing -- or simply says nothing at all. That is what we have long preferred.
There are strong advantages to this type, but also disadvantages. One of them is that you don't get the same degree of social benefit you got from the old heroic poems. Those came from having common heroes, whose stories were told and retold to all of us. A hero who refuses to be celebrated may be admirable for having the virtue of humility in spite of having done great deeds; but he also denies his culture the chance to use him as a rallying figure, to socialize the young and to help adults rededicate their lives to the better things.
In the last few decades, there has been a rise of another sort of claimant to heroism: I mean the swaggering criminal type. We've always had gangster movies, but even as late as the Godfather pictures, it was understood that the criminals were the bad guys.
That hasn't been the case lately: from "Smokey and the Bandit" to gangster rap, we've seen a resurgence of the boastful-heroic mode. It is a mode that is fundamentally better able to socialize the young than the humble mode of Protestantism. That is a problem, and it's another part of the problem Kim was discussing.
The old mode was sustainable as long as it didn't have to compete with an active heroic tradition in the counterculture. Children (especially boys) need bold, shining heroes to emulate, and if they can't get them elsewhere, they'll emulate the pimp.
There are two kinds of heroes we have to offer, and we need them both. The first are historic American heroes, so that we can celebrate our (cultural, rather than literal) ancestors in the way that Ingeld's descendants did. I think Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge did the groundwork here: their Hero Tales from American History serves as a great source for stories to celebrate.
We also need living, modern heroes. We are fortunate enough to have some. The DOD has begun a series called Heroes in the War on Terror.
The last thing we need are poets and movie makers to turn their craft to celebrating these heroes, historic and living. That, so far, is the one place where we fall short.
Anyone want to fund a movie company? I'll bet there would be a market for these films, if only someone made them.